The Cradle, 2/20/2013


A few weeks ago, I painted this 8″ x 8″ painting. Below is a portion of my journal writing that accompanies it.

It started with a sweep of yellow. The first thought that came to mind was a cradle. It’s a bright, soft, glowing upright cradle, like a papasan chair. It’s a resting place, a cushion that you just lean back on and comfort surrounds you. You lie back, snuggle in, and swing your feet. Deep rest. It feels as if you are doing nothing when you rest, but really, you are opening up to well-being. As you sink your back into the enveloping softness and turn your head to one side to touch the cushion, your body and mind and spirit joins at this place of rest… A smoky mist of Spirit points toward the center. Sounds like steam. The steam opens you up, releases and cleanses. It’s a deep cleaning, like a sauna. Calming and refreshing, the steam reaches your core. It cleans without soap. It cleans without scrubbing. It cleans without dunking into water. Shhhh! the steam says. Pssst, the steam calls. We have a secret we want to tell you. Delicious, delectable, yummy, juicy secrets just waiting for you. Stare into the colors, feel your senses rise. Allow the goodness to flow as you gaze upon this painting…. We lift the secrets from inside you because that’s where we reside. The secrets may come as feelings, some may come as words, often not in complete sentences and often not making sense. But know this, the secrets that reside within you are always right for you.

Self-Portrait (one year old), 2/15/2006


Blue was always my favorite color. It reminded me of the sky and the ocean and of calmness and peace. So, this was the color for my self portrait at one-year-old. Looking at the black and white picture, I felt my true nature. I saw my pure spirit. No words were written down, but I knew, with complete certainty, that these abstracts pulled out so much negative thinking. I knew I connected to a Source that wanted me to feel so good about me. Changes were happening. Feelings were lifting. But I had a long way to go. Was I willing to continue? You bet! I searched for a way to feel better and painting became a therapeutic practice that gave my feelings an outlet. Art as therapy was now my relief.

Garden of His Truth, 1/18/06

For the first time in my life, I put everything else aside. I kept my TV off, and instead I painted. In each piece I did, I felt so clear and so in the flow with the energy of my spirit. The world as I knew it faded away and I was absorbed in the shapes and colors and layers upon layers of brushstrokes.

After I finished Girl Power, I knew it was time to explore my feelings about my father again. I went back to my envelope of childhood photos and selected one of my father, sister, and me holding the lettuce from his garden. I could hear him begging me to stand with them in the photo, to hold his creation that was just yucky to me. I was to smile at the camera with his lettuce in hand. While looking at us posing, it felt so staged, so happy on the surface but in reality, we were not. There is so much more I could say but I’ll leave it at that. Yeah, it’s hard to write about this now because I have come so far through my painting journey. But in that period of my life, these abstract paintings were the first time that I really started feeling a tiny bit of relief. Finally, I had a creative outlet that was self-healing.

I am revealing my story because I truly believe there are those of you who have felt the same as I have, down right bad, and you don’t know what else to do. You have tried many avenues to feel good. Many of you have even masked your true feelings to everyone around. Sure, distractions do work. But there comes a time in life where you believe you need to clear out how you really feel, to reveal some deep beliefs that are causing much stress. You know something needs to come out and that you can’t go on living with these feelings any more. They are affecting your life and you need a positive way to release them. No more addictive behavior because that just makes them grow larger. No more hiding behind your true feelings. No more faking your way through life. Your inner spirit is calling you to use a creative outlet for self-expression and awareness. And that is why I got so hooked on these paintings. I knew painting my feelings was the best thing I could be doing for my self.

garden_origYou see, the perceptions and beliefs that were hidden most of my life were coming to the surface. These words were in my mind, they were right there as I painted. When I really paid attention to these words floating around in my head, they sounded off. They sounded really wrong. Where were they coming from? Were they words that I heard as a child? Were they things I heard from other children? There were in me but they didn’t sound from me. And they kept coming to the surface as I painted. The more layers I put down, the more words rose to the surface. It was as if my brush kept pulling them out of me. It felt as if they were leaving my subconscious, they were leaving my mind. They were negative, they put me down, they judged me, they judged everyone around me. They questioned all I did and everything I said. And none of them made me feel good.

Then something remarkable happened. I finally reached a place where I heard an understanding thought. Rather than feeling anger while thinking about my father, I became calm. The words I heard sounded something like this: “My father’s truth is different from my truth and neither of our truth is wrong. They are just our own perceptions of our own life.” This little nugget of relief was what kept me painting.

Girl Power, 1/15/06

girl_powerHave you ever found a friend who you could be completely yourself around? Someone who charges you up, sparks your creative juices, and brings out the best in you? Well, for me, this person is Jeanie, my roommate from art school. We have been great friends since our first day at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1980. That’s over three decades. And here we are posing for our “model shot.” When Jeanie and I get together, she goes crazy art directing photos and we can spend all day playing around with a camera. For this shot, she came up with the idea that we would wear white, put on a lot of makeup (and lipstick, yuk), and put on our favorite earrings. Her earrings were one piece of twisted wire that she slipped through her pierced ear. Mine were the ones she made me buy at the Butterfly Museum in Niagara Falls, Canada on a previous visit to Buffalo. She said I needed to wear bigger, more fun earrings. Normally I wore the same simple earrings for months on end.

jeanieandmeSo this was the photo I used for Girl Power. First, I drew a base drawing and abstracted our features. Then I started layering and layering metallic pinks and golds and blues. While I painted this, I can remember thinking that pink represented girl power: the energy that passes between you and a true girlfriend. The positive, nonjudgmental, confident energy when your friend only has your best interest at heart. When she puts all her attention on what you have to say because she really cares about you. And this makes you do the same for her. A balanced, reciprocal friendship where you feel so energized and so much better after you talk.

This painting has lots of gold stripes of energy. I painted over most of the pastel edges and that blended so well with the acrylics. Not sure what the gold ball is in the middle, but there’s something about it. It’s like a glowing light that we both have when we’re with each other and when we talk to each other. I gave this painting to her in 2007 and she has it hanging in her dining room next to her Monet and Renoir prints. She said it was fun telling her young boys that this was a painting Gracie did of their mom and her. They just scratched their head and looked confused. I think the adults who know this is an abstract portrait of us felt the same way. But for those of us who are interested in the unseen energy that vibrates between us, this painting can’t be explained in words. It has to be felt.

Immigrants: Saving bus fare for a chicken

It’s exciting to seek a better future. To see a new land as an open opportunity. To leave everything behind and envision a better tomorrow. A better life was my grandfather’s plan when he uprooted his family from Italy to the States. This picture was snapped as they stepped out of the airplane upon arriving in New York. They immigrated when my mom and uncle were almost twenty. That’s my mom peaking out from the back and my uncle in front. When I look at their faces I can see their hopeful energy.

To immigrate, my grandfather needed both a sponsor and a promise of a job. Once both were in line, they were on their way. But on his first day, when he made it to work, the building was all locked up. I couldn’t imagine what he must have felt when he thought of feeding his family. Saving money was his first priority. Their first day to the market a winter storm dumped three feet over the city. My mom remembers how hard it was to walk several blocks through the thick, wet snow. She could barely lift her legs out because it was up to her knees. But they had to bypass taking a bus to the store. All because he said, “I can buy a whole chicken for the price of four bus fares.”

Immigrants2I wanted to express their hopes for a better life while I painted this in 2005. Cool energies intermixed in Immigrants. Merging the contrasting colors of orange and blue, I explored the personal feelings each one might have had about this move across the world. A new exciting life awaited them along with an adjustment to a different culture and new language. My nonna began learning English and mom remembers her speaking it very well. But after she got sick, she could barely speak at all.

One shape I recognize is nonno’s hand on the bottom right hand side. My nonna’s eye is in orange at the top center. I loved blending and pushing the colors. I don’t remember much of what I thought of while I painted this but I do know that it moved something within me. It made me appreciate my nonno bringing his family to a new country to start a new life. It made me understand how hard it was for my mom to leave her friends behind. And most of all it just made me feel better because I felt their positive, hopeful energy.

Sunflowers, 11/2005

I found a photo of my sisters and me sitting in our backyard under a 12 foot sunflower. It was so tall that it couldn’t fit in this photo so I had to use another picture of the flower itself as a reference for this painting. That sunflower brought back good memories. I can remember looking up toward the sky seeing the bright yellow petals so long and soft with the middle part that held all of those seeds. It brightened my days wherever I sat near it, as if it was smiling down on me. It was so big that it finally broke off of the stalk. On the ground, the flower was so heavy I couldn’t even lift it. In the painting the only shape I recognized was part of the sunflower shape at the top right corner. The rest of the shapes are our features, which I can’t make out. So much is going on in this painting beyond what I see. The energies of the three of us came out through my brush. As I painted, I thought of my relationships with my sisters, one was two years older than me, the other seven years younger. I was the middle daughter. These obscure paintings were lifting so much out of me. It was hard to put into words what was happening within my psyche. But I knew that I found a wonderful painting process, a healing or replenishing of misconceptions about myself and my sisters. Molding and blurring our energies with golds, blues, and brown metallic paints, then softening the edges with powdery pastels was definitely working some magic on me. I couldn’t wait to get started on the next one.





Nonni, 11/2005

After I finished Nipote (meaning nieces and nephew in Italian), I went back to my old photos. I found this one of my grandparents for my next painting. I’m not even sure where I got this picture from but it was when Nonna (my grandmother) was healthy. She was a stylish woman I was told, always put together. In this photo, she looked well and stood up strong. But, I never knew her when she was healthy because she got sick when she was in her forties, around the time I was born.

While I painted this piece, I thought of how difficult it must have been for them to move from Italy to Buffalo, NY in the 1950’s. This is what I wrote about a few months after I finished this painting: Nonno’s eye is the yellow triangle shape toward the top right. The light purplish shape above his eye is his eyebrow. Nonna’s face is below the yellow triangle near the center. Her ear is the small circular streaky shape to the left of the triangle. Her eye and eye brow are faint streaks, her nose is the light purple tip facing downward. Her face has lots of streaky stripes of colors and that’s the energy from her sickness. The doctors tested her for many sicknesses before they diagnosed her with epilepsy. I thought about her life often and how she wasn’t able to talk. She could understand what we said but she was unable to communicate. How sad was that? What kind of life could it have been for her on earth? I would die without talking. But, I’ll never forget what the priest said about her at her funeral – that she’s talking up a storm in heaven.

Nipote, 10/2005

I loved this abstracting technique. It was refreshing to draw only parts of facial features, leaving all details out. It was so soothing to let my feelings out onto my surface, watching how the colors intermix. It felt so easy. It felt so comfortable. I couldn’t wait to start my next piece. I searched through the old photos again but couldn’t bring myself to do another painting from childhood. So I put the envelope back in my drawer and went into my living room to look for a current photo. My nieces and nephew all dressed in white tops and blue jeans was perfect. From left to right, in order of their ages, I painted their facial features, hairlines and hands, all the while thinking of their differences and how special they were to me. I replayed conversations in my mind, and smiled inside just thinking of their voices. So much about them was coming to the surface. As I painted, I thought of how they interacted and infused their personalities into my work. Painting this way was doing more than I had expected and I was on a roll. Finally, I had a style to work on that would become my first body of work. Finally, I broke through the doubts and distractions that kept me from painting all of these years. This style pulled feelings out of me. This process of dissecting facial features relieved bottled up perceptions. Painting just might become my therapy. Would I be willing to let it take me where I needed to go?

Father Daughter, 2005

Immediately upon finishing Drinking Cappuccino, and because of that amazing experience, I had to paint another picture. Plus, I have always wanted to know why I felt the way I did and maybe painting could help me understand more. Maybe if I found a photo from when I was a child, I could sort out those feelings that have been with me forever. Painting just might help.

I went to look for the envelope of old black and white photos tucked away in a bottom drawer. Flipping through a few, instantly I found the right one. I sat crossed-legged on the floor with a large piece of watercolor paper before me and looked at the photo of my father and me. My smiling face was a surprise. I could sense my body squirming. Maybe if I allowed my feelings about him to pour out onto my paper, our relationship could improve?

With a pencil, I started abstracting our features. Overlapping and enlarging the eyes, mouths, noses, ears, and hands. Once several lines covered the surface, it was time to do the base painting. Metallic copper and gold with purples and blues intuitively became my color palette. I painted light washes of color to decide which color went where. The blending and layering of colors pulled out my feelings. I don’t remember what I was thinking, but I know I became more aware of my thoughts. For several days, I layered more colors, pushing purple and gold into copper and blue into gold. It was so refreshing to just push around my paint without being concerned about the subject looking realistic. My painting was so abstracted, I recognized only a few features. My reddish brown hairline is at the upper left corner. One of his eyes is to the left of my golden squinty eyes in the center. The rest of the painting is so obscure. But that doesn’t matter. What mattered most was that I felt relief, tremendous relief, as I let my feelings out through my brush.

Tomorrow I’ll look through my envelope of black and white photos to select another one for my next painting.

My Painting Journey

Drinking Cappuccino, 2005

For over two decades, I tried to make painting a part of my routine. Every few years, I took evening classes to paint realistic pictures in figure drawing, portraiture, or watercolor. Even though my work was fairly decent, after the class ended, I packed away my supplies.

A year after I moved to Los Angeles, I enrolled in an abstract drawing class at UCLA Extension. The instructor, Stephanie Pryor, set up several objects on a platform and taught us how to abstract them until they were unrecognizable. A few weeks later, I brought my acrylic paints to class and used this technique to paint abstract faces from a magazine.

One night after work, I came home to my apartment and scanned my living room for a photo to use to practice what I had learned. A picture of my mom drinking cappuccino stood out. So I grabbed it, set up my art supplies on the floor, and started abstracting her features. As I did this, thoughts of our last conversation bounced through my head and soon feelings welled up inside. As I painted each layer, I let my feelings out through my brush.

Then the glistening came. The heavens opened up and I felt invisible yet real showers of love pour on me as I continued painting. Tingles rushed through my body. Chills streamed through my veins. And my mind reached a new understanding of her, and for the first time, I saw my mother as another human being, with her own opinions and her own inner struggles. She no longer was just my mother.

Words of healing came. Not just mere words that dissipated. But words that penetrated my core. Where I released my irritations, words of healing filled their place. These words spoke from a higher source. Call it God, the Universe, or a Higher Power. I call it my Inner Wisdom. Through painting, I found a direct route to this wisdom. Painting now had a reason. It had real purpose. And I had always known that it could bring me lasting relief. Above all that, it connected me to my Source of all that I need. The connection I felt the night I painted “Drinking Cappuccino” began my painting routine. This journey took me into the depths of my soul, which I had sought to reach my entire life, ever since I could remember. I now found a portal to the pure, intuitive wisdom that resides in all of us. And it was through painting, eventually along with writing, that brought me the wisdom I had always known was buried inside of me.

So in this category on my blog, I will reveal the words of wisdom I received through my body of work, starting at the beginning. In 2005, my abstract portraits, mostly of my family members, began clearing me out of all the unwanted perceptions and beliefs that affected my life in many ways. It has been a challenging yet beautiful journey of which I am so appreciative to have gone through. My purpose for being so transparent on this blog is with the hope that you, too, will be inspired to paint to connect to your inner wisdom for whatever reason you need.

The next post: “Father Daughter.”